Allies, Inc. proudly celebrated our nurses during National Nurses Week, May 6-12, for their hard work, dedication and the extraordinary level of compassionate care that they provide to those we serve. This year we were pleased to honor Anne Gonzalez, LPN, as our 2022 “Nurse of the Year” for her outstanding service as a nurse with Allies for the last 4 years.
Michael Haggerty, President and CEO of Allies, remarked, “We appreciate all of our nurses, but the “Nurse of the Year” award allows us to shine the spotlight on a nurse whose talents, compassion and care have been recognized by his or her colleagues, individuals we serve, as well as parents and guardians. It gave us great pleasure to honor Anne during Nurses Week for her incredible work.”
Anne was nominated by several of her peers, who were very enthusiastic about her nomination. They shared glowing remarks about her on their nomination forms, calling her dependable, reliable, trustworthy, selfless, and humble. Their comments made it clear that she’s known to bring a joyous mood wherever she goes.
Emily Wanyoike, Regional RN, said, “Anne is compassionate and thoughtful. She treats those she cares for as if they are her family. She’s like sunshine, bringing laughter and joy into their lives.” Emily also shared that Anne is a team player, always willing to help any nurse out, and never shies away from covering more hours during the COVID pandemic.
Vanessa Williams, Executive Director, agreed. She said, “Anne is extraordinary when it comes to caring for people. She is always kind, patient and understanding of them, as well as her co-workers and the management team. Her passion for caring for people and her creativity inspires others.” Vanessa also expressed that Anne helps individuals rise above their daily challenges and surpass what may seem like limits in their life.
Anne’s career path is an interesting one, a path that is still growing. After working in a bakery as a cake decorator for two years, she joined Allies in 2016 as a Community Support Staff (CSS) member. When asked about the transition, she said, “At the bakery I worked with a person who was also a Program Manager at Allies. She would talk about the work that she did, and the work of direct support professionals. I became very interested in trying it out. I liked the idea of helping people.”
Anne thrived in her CSS role at Allies’ Old Bridge Group Home over the next year. She would pay close attention to the work of the nurses in the home. The nurses there inspired her to launch the next step in her career – going back to school to become a Licensed Practical Nurse.
Later in 2016, Anne enrolled in a nursing program at a vocational school in Middlesex County. She said, “I was excited about becoming a nurse because I felt like I could help people even more, and I liked that being a nurse is very hands-on. I felt it was a career that I could definitely enjoy doing for a lifetime.”
As Anne began school, the Allies Family rallied around her. She said, “I have to thank Allies because they are a company that definitely encourages growth and helps you out if you want to go back to school. I was working and going to school at the same time, and everybody was so supportive – from my co-workers encouraging me, to individuals that I serve.”
Anne shared that when she was in nursing school, one of the women that she cares for asked her about it. She told her it was a lot of studying. The woman exclaimed, “I’ll help you with it buddy!” Anne began bringing in her textbooks and would read some of the content to her. The woman would memorize everything and read it back to her. Anne smiled and said, “My clients helped me through nursing school, and one even attended my graduation. So I owe them for my achievements as well. I’d like to continue my education and become a Registered Nurse next.”
As a nurse at Allies, Anne oversees all facets of individuals’ medical care, as well as activities of daily living (ADL), such as cleaning and grooming, their diets, and is a strong advocate for them in community and medical settings. In addition to these daily responsibilities, Anne receives a great deal of satisfaction from the bond she shares with those she serves and her ability to make them happy.
Anne said, “What I love most about being a nurse is helping people live their best life. I like making every day special for people in my care, almost like a party. I like helping them dress up to look and feel good. I like doing something special for them at the holidays, such as decorating or baking for Thanksgiving and Christmas. They know I love to throw birthday parties for them, and they make sure to tell me when their birthdays are. I’m all about making them happy and doing little things to make them smile.”
One of these little things was recently making strawberry lemonade for an individual she serves. She said, “I garnished it with mint, put a strawberry on the side, and served it in a martini glass. She felt like she was having a fancy drink and it made her so happy. I really like getting creative about doing little things they enjoy.”
Anne’s co-workers have noticed the way she interacts with those she serves and it touches them as well. Susan Maina, LPN, said, “Anne finds her own unique way of learning not only the needs of her individuals but also their likes. She brings smiles to those she serves through her innovative and creative talents. She finds pleasure in celebrating others, and staff find her a true pleasure to work with.” Susan also shared that guardians and families love Anne and have said that they have no worries when Anne is on shift. It’s a relief for them to know their loved ones are in her care.
The feeling is mutual and Anne loves her clients very much. She said, “The way Allies is set up and staffed is really great because I get to work with the same individuals daily. I get to learn their routines and their personalities. Some are non-verbal and they can’t tell you what they want or how they’re feeling. But because I work with them daily, I understand their gestures, expressions and what they may need.”
Anne shared an example of this. “A person may have a favorite television show that he watches every day in the afternoon. If he goes to take a nap during his favorite show, someone else may think it’s normal. But I know that’s not his normal routine. So I realize that something may be going on, and I will check on him and ensure everything is ok.”
When asked how she feels about being named Allies’ 2022 “Nurse of the Year,” Anne’s voice bubbled up with joy. She said, “I feel very honored and thankful that I was chosen by my co-workers. I work with an amazing team of awesome people who inspire me every day.”
Anne was honored by her peers and Allies’ executive team on May 10th at a Nurses Week Luncheon held at the administrative office. Anne was excited to attend, along with her co-worker, our 2021 “Nurse of the Year,” Susan Maina, LPN. She shared a very special and touching story about last year’s luncheon.
Anne said, “Last year, Susan and I took a woman we cared for, Nicole L., to the awards luncheon as an incentive to encourage her to do her best in life. We talked to Nicole about Susan’s award, and Nicole would say that she wanted to win an award too. She said that she was going to do her best, and Nicole did so well for many months after – making positive changes, staying healthy − it was amazing.”
Sadly, Nicole has since passed. But Anne keeps thoughts of Nicole in her heart each day. She said, “When Allies called me to tell me that I won the “Nurse of the Year” award I was so happy. I feel that even though she is not here anymore, Nicole is winning too. It would have been me and her there, but by me being chosen, it’s a win for the both of us.”
In closing, Anne had some advice for her nursing colleagues. She said, “Even if you think no one is paying attention, always continue to do your best. Do everything with love. This is more than just a job or work, it’s God’s work, and you are appreciated.”
The Allies’ Family definitely views Anne Gonzalez, Nicole, and our nursing team as winners, and it was an honor to celebrate them during National Nurses Week. To view photos from our 2022 Nurses Week Luncheon and congratulate Anne, visit us at “Allies NJ” on Facebook.
Allies, Inc. is a nonprofit agency dedicated to providing housing, healthcare, meaningful employment and recreational activities to people with special needs in the communities of their choice. To learn more, visit www.alliesnj.org.
Contact: Nicole Zamerovsky, Director of Communications, Allies, Inc.